Volkswagen Grand California: it’s a land yacht and proud of it
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Volkswagen has supersized the Kombi campervan concept with the new Grand California, which is indeed as large as it looks in the photographs: up to 6.8 metres long in flagship form.
Just launched in New Zealand in two versions priced at $159,000 and $163,000, the Grand certainly plays on VW’s Kombi heritage and the emotional appeal that goes with it, but its size and self-contained “freedom camping” status take it much closer to traditional motorhomes. Although it’s about a million times cooler…
“Everybody has a Kombi story,” says Kevin Richards, general manager of commercial vehicles for VW NZ. “Having a model as iconic as the Kombi in our stable certainly allows us to leverage that heritage.
“But while this [the Grand California] is the ‘grown-up Kombi’, it’s not a natural successor. The Transporter California is still an integral part of the range, so this really is just the Kombi evolved.
“It’s designed to have more of the feel of a yacht than a campervan.”
The key difference is that while the smaller California is based on the medium-sized Transporter van, the Grand California is built on the larger Crafter platform, in either medium-wheelbase (600) or long-wheelbase (680) forms. The numbers indicate the overall length, if you hadn’t already guessed.
There’s not a massive difference in price between the two, nor is there a huge leap up from the $142k Transporter California when you consider how much extra real estate you’re getting. The choice in the Cali-family is less about what you can afford and more about what kind of space you really want.
There’s a key difference between the two Grand California models that you might not expect. The smaller 600 actually sleeps more people: it’s a 4-berth, with a double bed below and bunks up top.
The longer 680 is a 2-berth, with a larger queen-size bed that’s had the tick from the German Chiropractic Association. The longer 680 is also 127mm lower, because it doesn’t need the extra roof height for the sleeping quarters.
So the cabin layout is very different between the two, although both have kitchen facilities including a stove top, bench and fridge, gas heating and hot water cylinder, apartment-style ambient lighting and a combined shower and toilet unit.
As with the smaller Transporter California, clever packaging details abound: the driver and front passenger seats swivel to form extra seating around the (folding) dinette table, while the camping table and chairs clip into the tailgate lining when not in use.
Both Grand California models are powered by a 2.0l turbo-diesel engine with 130kW/410Nm and 4Motion AWD is standard. Driver-assistance equipment includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and cross-wind assistance – ideal for those Auckland Harbour Bridge crossings in a slab-sided 3.1m-tall vehicle.
It’s a full factory build, so the five-year/150,000km warranty covers everything in the vehicle – right down to the shower and fridge.
“We’re really new at this so we don’t mind saying we don’t have any specific volume aspirations,” says Richards. “But we have good supply and we are confident of meeting any customer demand.”
“We’re essentially introducing a campervan into a market that can’t travel overseas for a non-specific period of time. It’s the ideal platform to make an impact.”